The Homeless Expat

Aloise Family
A rare family portrait in my parent’s home.

“Home is where the heart is.”

Well, that either means I have no heart or no home, because my heart is broken apart among family members I miss and beautiful places I’ve traveled, and my home is somewhere between Massachusetts and Madrid.

  • A tiny piece of my heart is in Granada, Spain, where I fell in love with Spain and travel.
  • Another sliver is in Argentina, where I found that traveling alone wasn’t so scary and that the world’s natural beauty trumps its famous monuments (in my opinion).
  • A big piece of my heart is in Seville, Spain, the city where I truly became an adult, lived completely on my own, met my husband, and fell in love with Spanish cuisine.
  • Another piece is in Cádiz, where the beaches and mountains beckon and my in-laws prepare fresh seafood daily, enjoying lunch on their Andalusian patio almost year-round.
  • A growing piece is in Madrid, a beautiful, accepting city where we’ve done it all on our own. A city where I started following my dreams, opened a business, and have endless possibilities for the future.
  • And an enormous piece is in Massachusetts, the place where I grew up, where I have all of my memories from birth to adulthood, and where my amazing family still lives. It’s where my three-year-old niece is learning about the world, and where my three-month-old nephew will soon follow her example. It is where my parents are enjoying their new status as grandparents, and where my sister bought her first home. It’s where I can drive the streets without needing a GPS, and where I know exactly where to find whatever I might need– be it new shoes, medicine, or good Thai food.

I thought that we would be okay living in Madrid, with multiple visits to see my family every year, and various other small trips to see Ale’s parents and travel in Europe too. It sounds great in theory, a dream come true for many. But the reality is that it is still difficult. Every time I go “home” (to Massachusetts) I wonder what life would be like there, if I’m being foolish to trade weekly tea parties with my niece and luncheons with my mom and sister for a city where we have no family and few connections.

Boston skyline
Could we ever trade Madrid for Boston?

After a lovely, whirlwind two weeks home for Thanksgiving, going “home” (to Madrid) was difficult. I don’t remember being so sad about it for a very long time.

Bella
Turkey hunting with my niece on Thanksgiving Day.

Other long-term travelers and expats will say that when they go “home” (back to the place they grew up) nothing has changed. Their old friends, they explain, are still stuck in the same jobs, and their family still follows the same routine. But while this is true for my friends and family as well, let’s not fool ourselves. Things are changing constantly, because time is always passing. And while it may be difficult to observe with our friends and siblings, it is crystal clear with children and the elderly. Within six months a baby doubles in size and develops a new set of language and motor skills, while an elderly person can lose those very same skills just as quickly. I’ve observed both of these situations, and in both cases I’ve felt like I missed an important time in a loved one’s life.

Baby niece
It seems just yesterday that my niece was a tiny baby.
Bella
And now she’s three and a half!
Anthony
My new nephew, Anthony, will probably be walking the next time I see him.

So there comes the idea of the homeless expat. Someone who hasn’t fully connected with the true sense of the word “home” in any part of the world, yet often uses the word to describe more than one place they have lived. Sound familiar? Maybe you’re one too. We should start a club.

As my years spent in Spain continue to accumulate, I’m still unsure of what lies ahead. And, for now, I still find myself missing home, wherever that may be.

Where do you call home?

Comments

  1. Nice emotive piece. I enjoy going back to the UK immensely and I miss my four sisters,other family members and loads of friends but my home for me is where I live and has been now for many years. You’re still very young Lauren…time will tell!

  2. I always feel like that fresh back from a trip home. The beautiful thing about this feeling, is that we’ve had the opportunity to find a piece of home in many places we’ve been.

  3. It a tough challenge our generation is dealing with due to the ease of moving around the planet like never before. Your young so dont over think it too much right now but when your folks get old, or you start a family, then you need to make a decision.

    Until then, live the next 24hrs with only 1/2 an eye on the future. Make the most of your day !

  4. Have you considered retiring in Massachusetts? I know that’s a long ways off and might seem silly, but I’ve heard of expats doing something like that before–they work where they need to, where it’s practical, and then when they’ve got the money saved and are ready to retire, they do so where they actually want to live, not where they ‘need’ to.

    What’s tough for you guys in particular is that you don’t really have the option of relocating to the U.S. now because of your husband’s line of work: he’s a lawyer, and that skillset doesn’t transfer from country-to-country like most other things do, in fact it’s probably the hardest profession to work with if you want to move to a new country, hell medical doctors have it easier than lawyers because with them at least the great majority of what they’ve learned applies no matter where they are, it’s just an issue of re-certification, not so with lawyers.

    This is a tough one. Have you come up with any potential solutions?

    Best of luck to you.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  5. This is a question I turn around and ask myself every time I feel homesick, eat a hamburger and bicker with Kike. I don’t think I’d ever feel 100% in one place, and the beauty of technology and travel is that you can really have a slice of it all!

    Bella is so big now, and the photo of all of you girls is gorgeous!!

  6. Fully agree with your post! I have bits of my heart all over the world from Europe to Asia. I sometimes wonder why I don’t have the “normal” life that all my friends have but I love the adventure, the exploration and newness. After this many years overseas, I can truly say I feel more at “home” in a foreign country than in my own state.

  7. Such a perfect time for this piece!! I love reading all your posts but this one really touched my heart since I will be going home this weekend for two weeks. I haven’t seen my beautiful country in over three years and as much as I love the USA, home will forever be sitting under a pine tree in my dad’s backyard in Coruña or walking the cobblestones of Santiago or having some pintxos in my hometown of San Sebastian. As soon as I get to Barajas I am home…..I cannot wait to meet my new baby nephew and watch my older two play with my girls. Thank you for all you posts. You always bring a piece of home to my computer 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *